25 November 2013

Camino Accounts VI: Elena

Day Five & Day Six

Puente La Reina - Estella; Estella - Sansol.
Introducing: Elena from Azqueta (below).

The GPS went crazy on the way to Sansol. One reason for it could have been the temperature. We decided not to finish in Los Arcos, which was a more popular town to stay in. We continued to Sansol instead, which meant we had to walk when we weren't supposed to: the sun gest really nasty between 1-4 pm. Well, we stepped into an albergue in Sansol around 2.30 pm.

On the way though, I experienced one of the things you less and less often stumble upon these days. After one or two mini-chocolate buns for "breakfast" I was just craving for some coffee and whatever else to forget about the black hole in my stomach, about to break-open a vending machine when, around the corner... there it is! 

A glorious, small stand, in front of some house; and a clear message: help yourself with a small breakfast. There is coffee, tea, fruits, biscuits, I mean... everything. It is run by Elena; she'd like to open a real albergue in the future. In the meanwhile, she just makes everyone happy with that little stand around the corner in Azqueta village.

And there's Elena's brother, playing the hang drum. Hang drum makes a very particular kind of sound: even though a musician is actually playing, you tend to interpret it as some kind of an ambient sound. It's so delightful. 

Oh, and don't believe the GPS accounts between Estella and Sansol. It was actually almost 30 kms; the GPS just went crazy at some point and I only realized it a couple of kilometers before reaching Sansol. You can see it on the GPS track profile.

17 November 2013

Looking smart huh...

Jersey Shore has just arrived to Warsaw, PL... They're looking smart, aren't they.

16 November 2013

Camino Accounts V

Day Four. Cizur Menor - Puente La Reina

Introducing: Nicolas from Plusquellec, Bretagne, France

This guy carried his own sleeping gear, i.e. two backpacks. I remember walking through some huge vineyard early in the morning and seeing him waking up. Right in the middle of the vineyard.

This day I beat my own personal record in low-spending. I spent a total of 12,10 EUR. 8 EUR below my daily limit. Heck yeah.

I also longed for being alone. Unbelievable: the Camino is a kind of journey that leaves you alone a lot; it even makes you suffer completely on your own. When you happen to walk with no company and the sun is burning your skin for hours and your water reservoir is already dry. Some people long for loneliness, "to get some rest from the usual noise of everyday life". It's completely the other way round in my case though.

And yet, this huge albergue in Puente La Reina (100+ spots) made me wish I'd been left alone. Actually, there is something appalling about the crowd in general, right?

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15 November 2013

Camino Accounts IV

Day 3. Larrasoaña - Cizur Menor

I was debating with myself over this new entry for quite a while, as I realized I had taken more than one and more than two really nice shots that day. This is different than Day One, when I took hardly any publishable pics. 

It's interesting, as this here was a rather short day. True, we got to Pamplona, the first big city on the Way; but we didn't spend much time there and made it to Cizur Menor early in the afternoon. Once there, we had plenty of time to relax and talk and eat together, and talk some more and drink wine.

There was clara con limón too, i.e. beer mixed with lemonade - which Alex, Álvaro and I made our small daily ritual.

This is Kirsten (the photo below). Kirsten walked with her mom. They're from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. We had some fine conversation together; I was told nobody believes there's real life going on the Cape. Then I explained them some ancient Polish spelling rules. It was rather interesting then, I guess. 

I hope Kirsten gets to see this portrait. I was going to improve it somehow, but soon I realized it didn't need almost any post-editing. Also, I realized I don't need to publish any more pictures from the Day Three. Kirsten nails it. ;)

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13 November 2013

Camino Accounts III

Day 2. Spain. Roncesvalles - Larrasoaña

The mountains are over; however, we remain in a zone of many ups and downs, which can get really exhausting. Just add the blazing sun and, well, you're there. Sweating a lot. Swearing at the cars passing by. Why the hell do they drive so close the edge of the road.

A quick look into my Travel Diary. I put down one interesting thing: The flies here in Larrasoaña seem to be a separate ethnic group, I suppose. The place was just full of them.

That's the end of the day. The beginning, however, goes like this: it was a cool, clear morning. When we left the village of Roncesvalles behind, the trail led us into the woods. We all received a blessing from a priest passing by. Later, we had our first north-Spain-style breakfast: coffee and empanadilla. Check it out. Empanadilla (although in its many variants) would be my principal nutrition during the next four weeks.

I was glad to leave into the cold mist of morning. I was glad to leave the huge Hospital de Peregrinos so full of foreign volunteers, of which few spoke decent Spanish. The Complaint Form would grow over time, I promise.

Introducing: GPS map & profile; a priest [ES] and Peng [ZH].

12 November 2013

Camino Accounts II

Day 1. St. Jean-Pied-de-Port (FR) to Roncesvalles (ES).

A walk across the Pyrenees. Heck of a long trip (circa 27 kms over the mountains). I was going to publish a map & a terrain profile from my GPS, however at some point already approaching Roncesvalles, it said AVERAGE SPEED: 500 km/h, ALTITUDE: 8500 m… Well, I decided to turn it off by then. It worked ok later on though.

I forgot to pack my anti-sun shirt, left it in the hostel. So after about 20 minutes of steep climb up the hill… well, I had to return to the town. It felt like a symbol. Don’t you feel too much attached to your things? Well, at this time I prefered the attachement than being burned by the merciless August sun, to be honest. I feched the shirt; I left many, many things behind further on though.

First encounter with the fellow pilgrims. Car pilgrims too – see below. This is deadly, these mountains. Well, and what did you expect folks, like, a nice, flat highway?…

And I met these two fellas. Alex did not speak any Spanish. Alvaro did not speak any English. I was looking at them over my shoulder till noon, more or less. I still don’t know how were they communicating all that time. Then, buying chocolate at a small stand near the trail, I told Alvaro he wasn’t to get any beer there, as it was still France after all… That’s how we became friends.

Introducing: Alex (CAN), Alvaro (ES) and Virgin Mary of Biakorri (ES)


Warsaw: devastated. November 11 Polish Independence Day



Blurred and shaken images: by the extreme nationalists who think car windshields are there to be shattered and that LGBT people should be eradicated. That’s how some neoNazis think the most important Polish national celebration should be honoured.

Russian embassy was assaulted too. Democracy was insulted (again). People in the picture by no means are extremists. This is an image from an official march, led by the Polish president, Bronisław Komorowski.

09 November 2013

Camino Accounts I


What's Camino: Way of St. James
Recommendations: "The Way" movie; http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1441912/

Traditionally, if not at your door, the Way of St. James starts in St. Jean-Pied-de-Port, French Basque country; just where the first serious slopes of the Pyrenees start.
I had to get there from Madrid, Spain. It was a 5-hour drive with a bunch of French guys (thanks Michel - the guy with a map up there - and blablacar.com).

Then, me and my backpack were left in the middle of town celebration going on. Free food and traditional Basque outfits. My Camino was about to start the next day, 8 am sharp.

Now, here this is how “The Camino Accounts” starts.